[Taxacom] Stories of Discovery

Rob Dunn rob_dunn at ncsu.edu
Tue Dec 9 21:15:49 CST 2008

Hi all,

I have just published a new book intended for popular audiences on
biological discovery (Every Living Thing:
As a follow-up to the book I am trying to compile and put online (as a
webpage) first
person accounts of biological discovery. If any of you have stories of
discoveries--big or small--that you would like to share, I would like
to put them online. My hope is to provide a window into what the day
to day events are like when scientists make an important observation,
find a new species or important record, finally understand some mysterious
process, figure out some new (but thrilling) piece of natural history, or
have an insight that fundamentally changes a field.

The discoveries recorded in history books and those that scientists find joy in
can be very different creatures. Books tend to record the stories of a
handful of big discoveries, but it is the day to day discoveries on
the back of which those big discoveries come.  The most exciting
discoveries may seem mundane to those not involved. For example, the
media loves stories of "new species discovered in Congo." But for a
systematist working on a diverse and messy taxon there may be
little joy in discovering a new species. Greater joy may come instead
from finding a new character to distinguish a group of species that
had, for years, been impossible to untangle. It is that character, in
this case, not the new species that makes things for the first time

My goal is to compile many firsthand accounts of the moments (or, in
the case of some discoveries, years) of discovery. I've already
posted a few examples:

I hope these stories will be useful in allowing non-scientists and
students to see
a little more of what daily science and its progress are about. If you
have a discovery (however small) that you would be willing to describe
or if you know of published first person accounts of biological
discovery that find particularly compelling, please let me know.
Please put "Biological Discovery" in the title of your email.

If you do decide to contribute the story of one of your discoveries,
please include the details of the event. What actually happened? Walk
the potential reader through the story. In addition, please feel to
provide a link to relevant publications, which I will also post.  I am
also glad to link the stories back to your personal webpages.

Thank you for your time.


Rob R. Dunn

Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
North Carolina State University
Rob_Dunn at ncsu.edu

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